Beanery Online Literary Magazine

March 8, 2010

A Chilean’s Thoughts on the Chilean Earthquake



Rafael Alejandro Jara

Rafael is one of the Beanery Online Literary Magazine contributors. A student in Florida, he was born in Santiago, Chili, which he left as a young child. Watch for his profile in the May 1, 2010, Beanery Writers Newsletter. Below is his response to the question asking his thoughts on the magnitude 8.8 earthquake that occurred February 27, 2010.

     I imagine that the Chilean earthquake disaster has consumed the concern of all Chileans this week, especially the million of them who live abroad and watch with frustration and pity at the plight of their country. They also watch the dissipating media attention that encourages the aid and support that is necessary to avert a situation of rapid and fatal deterioration, particularly in Concepcion and the coastal towns ruined by flood. 

     I have spent many hours already in shame and frustration at the inaction of my fellow Muslims in responding to the situation, especially after showing such rigor in assisting Haiti after its monstrous earthquake.  But I have also been warmed by the sincerity and determination of my fellow Muslims in Chile, who petition people to remain firm in their faith and to put into practice the ideals of Muslim charity. 

     It should be said to those who assume that only Christian charity existed, that Muslims hold it an obligation to help people in distress. It is the universal right of a human being to be saved from whatever duress threatens him, irrespective of his creed.  And, unlike so many charities, Muslims are not in the habit of mixing their altruism with propaganda. They consider displays of virtue and chivalry as enough to recommend Islam to others. 

     But it seems as a whole that the tragedy in Chile has not been given half the concern of that in Haiti, and, even if does not seem to people to be half so dire a situation, this is still disheartening. 

     I also admit that seeing so many aftershocks of a similarly formidable magnitude (some as high as 8.0), I imagined the entire strip of Chile broken and cast into the sea, and myself existing in exile, as part of a destroyed nation, with the burden of preserving a sunken culture and heritage.  It was not the happiest weekend.
     My family, like most of Santiago, was more startled and inconvenienced than injured by the rattling.  This blessing does not remove the pain of watching one’s homeland torn and jumbled to bits. There is still a desperate situation in the lack of water, shelter, and medicine. As the situation is contained and normalcy ensues with renewed access to electricity and water, there are still many large tasks facing the country.

     Assuming that wanton deaths due to neglect and slowness are avoided along the coast, there is still much to rebuild. And insofar as we are to better our buildings and infrastructure, we are able to use this disaster as the foundation for new opportunities. President Bachelet, who seems fated to go down as the most popular president in Chilean history, called the disaster unparalleled, which should strike anyone familiar with Chile’s tumultuous past as being curious. 

     I think what should be remembered is that this was not our largest or deadliest earthquake. But it is our first such national trial as a modernized and developed society. It is, then, the first time that we are responding to a major calamity with the expectations of a modernized and developed country (with a price-tag estimated at $30 billion USD). Thus the pressure and concern that Chile shows itself to be professional and organized in its response to the tragedy and in the reconstruction that will have to follow (and we all have seen in recent years the shame and scorn that is given to a nation that falls below expectations in its response to a national disaster).

     That Chile as a nation responds with speed and quality matters greatly to the pride of a people now accustomed to viewing their country as a miracle capable of weathering disasters, downfalls, and yes, earthquakes.



Al-Waq’ia by Rafael


The Partners in Progress Mission Project in Haiti

Word from Claudette in Haiti

Jesus by Rafael

Mad Hatters, Johnny Depp, and Alice in Wonderland

1 Comment »

  1. […] A Chilean’s Thoughts on the Chilean Earthquake […]

    Pingback by A Daily Online Lenten Study Guide: Day 17 « Carolyncholland’s Weblog — March 8, 2010 @ 1:31 pm | Reply

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